Novak v. Caritas in Veritate

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Michael Novak really doesn’t like what the pope has to say about the economic order. But it’s one thing to jump all over liberal Catholics in America (“Economic Heresies of the Left“), and quite another to condemn His Holiness as one of the heretics (“The Pope of Caritapolis“). So Novak slathers his criticism with all the sugar-coating he can muster. Still:

What Benedict XVI has not spelled out yet is another forgotten
lesson from St. Augustine: the ever-corrupting role of sin in the City
of Man. Augustine points out how difficult it is even for the wisest
and most detached humans to discover the truth among lies–and how even
husbands and wives in the closest of human bonds misunderstand each
other so often. The Father of Lies seems to own so much of the real

What are the most practical ways of defeating him? The Catholic
tradition–even the wise Pope Benedict–still seems to put too much
stress upon caritas, virtue, justice, and good intentions,
and not nearly enough on methods for defeating human sin in all its
devious and persistent forms.

Even the Pope’s understandable nostalgia for the European
welfare-state too much scants the self-interests, self-deceptions, and
false presuppositions that are bringing that system to a crisis of its
own making. This was a crisis John Paul II saw rather more clearly in
paragraph 48 of Centesimus Annus.

Oh, dear, poor naive papa for failing to convey the dark Augustinian understanding that human nature is too flawed to secure social justice by means of economic regulation and public support for the least among us!

What methods for defeating human sin does Novak have in mind? The tough love of the free market? And does he really imagine that what has brought about the current economic crisis are the presuppositions of the European welfare state, as opposed to the deregulatory ideology that was meant to bring it down?

  • I’m not Benedict XVI’s biggest fan, but no one can deny that he’s excessively qualified as a theologian, and as such is quite unlikely to overlook anything from – well, anyone at all, let alone St. Augustine.

  • Mark Silk

    I think you could argue that belief in the need for a strong regulatory regime to keep under control the excessive greed of human nature manifest in free market capitalism IS the Augustinian position. Who the hell stole those pears, after all?